The Champions League semifinals enter their final round this week. We preview the coming action as the last four teams remaining vie for a spot in the final to decide who will be crowned champion of Europe.
Juventus vs. AS Monaco – Tuesday April 9
Monaco failed to score in their home leg last weekend and, perhaps more crucially, allowed Juventus to score two vital away goals. The two-goal deficit means the current Ligue 1 leaders must go to Juventus Stadium, home of the best-defending team in Europe, and attack.
Attacking is what Monaco do best. The principality outfit has racked up an astonishing 146 goals across all competitions this season. Last week’s feeble loss marked the first time Monaco had failed to score at home since November of 2015. With veteran striker Radamel Falcao and teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, manager Leonardo Jardim’s all-attacking side have freely outscored all comers this season, until they met Juventus that is.
Currently poised to win their sixth consecutive Serie A title, Juve haven’t conceded a goal in the Champions League since November. The Old Lady haven’t lost a game at home this season in any competition. Manager Max Allegri has turned Juventus Stadium into a fortress. While Monaco could rock up on the day and possibly nip a goal or even two, they’ll run the risk of opening themselves up to Juve’s deadly counterattack.
While Juve’s formidable backline is rightfully lauded, the team also boasts one of the deadliest strike forces in Europe in the form of Argentine duo Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. Sami Khedira, who was suspended for the first leg, is set to make his return to midfield, while defender Dani Alves continues to enjoy what could prove one of the best seasons of his career.
If Monaco are to have any hope of overturning the first-leg deficit and progressing to the final, they’ll need to score early and put Juve on the back foot. As good as Monaco have been, it’s a tall order against a Juventus side that shut out Barcelona’s deadly trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar over two legs.
Watch Juventus vs. Monaco this Tuesday May 9 at 2:45 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid – Wednesday April 10
Like Monaco, Atletico Madrid head into the second leg with a deficit, after losing 3-0 in the first leg. However, unlike Monaco, Atleti have the advantage of playing the second leg at home. There was a time, not very long ago, when Atletico boss Diego Simeone had Real Madrid’s number.
The hard-nosed Argentine tactician carved out an impressive six-game unbeaten streak against Atleti’s city rivals. However, that streak has since been snapped and, at the first leg at the Bernabeu, El Cholo’s strategy of sitting back, trying to absorb the attack and minimize damage backfired badly.
Part of the problem for Atletico is that even with one of the best defensive setups in Europe over recent seasons, there’s just no containing Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment. The Portuguese superstar was resplendent in the first leg. He undid Atletico almost single-handedly, scoring a hat trick and becoming the first player to net three career hat tricks in the knockout stages of the competition.
Atletico boasts a home record that rivals Juventus’. But Real Madrid have gone 60 consecutive matches without failing to score at least one goal. As good as Atleti’s defense is, it’s difficult to imagine them keeping Real Madrid off the score-sheet, particularly with a three-goal deficit as Simeone will have to set his side out to attack. Atleti does boast its own supremely talented attacker in Antoine Griezmann. But the Frenchman doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of fire support that Ronaldo has in Karim Benzema, Isco, and James Rodriguez, just to name a few.
For Atletico, it will be crucial to get the first goal. But even then, with Ronaldo on his current form, there are no guarantees.
Watch Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid this Wednesday, May 10 at 2:45 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.